If keeping your house warm during the winter wasn’t hard enough, keeping it cool and comfortable during the summer can be even more difficult. We have some well-known tips (as well as some not-so-well-known) to help keep you from getting burned on your utility bills this summer.
Before we get into the tips, you should first assess your utility bills and conduct a home energy audit to identify how and where your house is losing energy. What energy source do you use most and how do your winter heating and electric bills compare to the previous summer? If you don’t know where to start, the U.S. Department of Energy has some tips on ways to best assess your home’s energy use.
Heating and cooling your spaces account for about half of an average home’s energy costs; your water heater pitches in another 18 percent.
The reality is, you have the most to gain (and lose) over the long term if your home isn’t optimized to keep you cool. This isn’t just hot air.
A study from the National Association of Home Builders found that “Home buyers report being willing to pay an additional average of $7,095 in the up-front price of a home if that saved them $1,000 annually in utility costs.”
Conducting an energy assessment will help put you on the proper path when you want to replace your windows to keep your home cool.
1. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate (and Seal)
Insulation is important in the summer too. Adding insulation to your home can be a cost-effective way to help keep your home’s interior cool during the summer and warm during the winter.
You can accomplish this with additional insulation (fiberglass, cellulose, etc.) in your attic. You can find some help on where to start through the federal government’s Home Energy Saver energy calculator. By entering your zip code and various facts about your home, it will help determine how much you could save by adding upgrades, like insulation, to your home.
It’s not a bad idea to add insulation to seal your ductwork, too.
2. Upgrade Your HVAC System, Appliances, Windows and Doors
It might cost you upfront, but upgrading your old HVAC system, appliances and even your windows and doors to ENERGY STAR® certified products can help you save on your energy bills over the long-term.
Homeowners could expect to see as much as $101-$583 in yearly energy savings when replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-certified windows from Pella. That equates to a decrease of 1,006-6,250 pounds of carbon dioxide or 51-317 gallons of gasoline per year.
To start the research process, the ENERGY STAR website has plenty of information on all the products and appliances to help you choose.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency can help you save money when buying new products.
3. Clean HVAC Filters and A/C unit
Dirty filters block airflow and can cause your system to run for longer periods of time, and keep it from operating properly.
You might now be asking, “How frequently should I change the filter?” Well, there are some things you should consider first, as some filters are recommended to be replaced monthly; others as little as twice a year! You can often find replacement recommendations on the side of your furnace filter. It’s a good rule of thumb to replace a filter every three months. But if your filter’s dirty, it’s best to just replace it.
Once you’re done cleaning or replacing the filter, turn to clean your outdoor air conditioner unit. Regular cleaning can help to minimize maintenance, and cools the air more efficiently. The best part is … it’s free!
4. Turn Down the Water Heater Temperature/Turn Up Thermostat
Hot showers feel great when the temperatures start to drop. But a change of your habits and the turn of a dial can help you save money on both your energy and water bill.
Turning your water heater down may help you save you money each month. And, you could also save money by turning up your thermostat in the summer too.
5. Invest in Smart Home Technology or Alternative Energy Sources
Investing in smart home technology can give you a better idea of what your energy consumption is on a day-by-day basis and help you optimize its usage.
Smart thermostats are a good place to start. Having already established that turning your thermostat up while you’re away from home can save you on your energy costs, a smart thermostat does it for you, automatically.
Automatic, or smart thermostats, allow you to set your HVAC system to operate at your convenience. Many pair with home automation systems and your smartphone or tablet, giving you the power to control your home’s climate when you’re away.
6. Close Windows, Doors, Blinds, Shades and Drapes During Day, Open at Night
Similar to the tip of turning up your thermostat during the day to reduce energy costs, another tip is to close your windows, blinds/shades/drapes during the day.
It might seem counter-intuitive to close your windows, restricting fresh air from entering your home, but by shutting your home’s windows and their treatments during the hottest times of the day and turning your thermostat up (or off), it keeps the cool air inside your home and keeps the hot air out.
Then in the evening, when you get home from work, either open your windows to let the cool night air inside or turn your A/C back up.
Products, like Pella’s Insynctive™ technology, allow users to program the opening and drawing of blinds and shades, limiting the amount of sunlight that heats a home’s interior during different times of the day. Please note, in order to use this type of technology, it needs to be connected to a home automation system.
7. Use Fans to Circulate or Exhaust Air
Use the fans that you have in your home, be they ceiling, oscillating, floor or box fans, to help circulate or expel air from your home’s interior or attic.
Air conditioners cost a lot of money to operate, compared to ceiling fans, which come in at about five cents an hour.
Using whole house fans or solar-powered attic fans can help exhaust hot attic air from your home, thereby keeping it cooler.
8. Cook Outside vs. Inside
One of the best things about the summer months is spending time outside. So why spend time inside cooking on the stove or in the oven when you can do it outside? Grilling outside will help keep your home cooler.
Can’t cook outside? Using a microwave or toaster oven consumes far less energy and gives off little or no heat, compared to an oven or stove which will increase your home’s interior temperature.
Click here for some great summer recipe tips from Country Living.
9. Add Landscaping
Being smart about reducing your energy use inside your home can extend to your yard, specifically landscaping.
Do you have trees or shrubs that can shield your home from the sun?
Landscaping does more than just improve your home’s curb appeal. Landscaping can reduce your heating and cooling costs, too. It’s best to understand what your climate can support before you invest in your landscaping project, taking into consideration wind, shade and temperature.
10. Renovate Your Basement
The one place in your home that maintains the most consistent temperature throughout the year is your basement – if you have one.
Basements are almost always underground, or partially underground, which helps keep them cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter.
They can be used as a heat sink, circulating the cooler air through your house.
Because of its temperate air, it’s also a cool place (get it) to hang out. So maybe it’s time to start that basement finishing project you’ve been putting off for so long!
Don’t forget to give Pella Windows and Doors of Wisconsin a call for all of your windows and doors needs. Our committed team of experts will have the answers to all your home design questions.